Saturday, December 11, 2010

Return to Whiteside

High up on Traditions
    For an entire week prior, the feeling in my stomach alternated from queasy fear to unbridled excitement. It was finally happening. I was going back to Whiteside but, this time, to the imposing Southeast Face, an eight hundred foot quartz diorite monstrosity known for its bold run outs. “SF” had set up the plans. We would leave from Athens Saturday night, camp on nearby Forest Service land, and make a fast and light assault on the mountain with the sunrise. Our route of choice was Traditions (5.11c R IV), the second easiest full length route on the wall. Somewhat of a mix between the meandering Original Route (5.11a R IV) and the absurdly steep headwall routes to the left, Traditions takes a direct line up the middle of the face.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The New (All About Commitment)

The New River from Snake Buttress
 My speedometer cruised at the speed limit on my first West Virginian Deliverance road despite feeling uncomfortably five-miles too fast. The hilly, single-lane road was the short way to Fayetteville according to my GPS, and since I was trying to save money, and since the shortcut was only five minutes longer by time, I took the road less travelled, which raised my eyebrows in two different ways: split between staring around the blinded curves ahead and at the crumbling wooden houses separated by muddy yards, rusted pick-up trucks, and the neatly stacked wood piles that fueled the smoke-spewing chimneys that rose up from the wavy tin roofs on top. I was heading to The New and greatly looking forward to it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Getting With The Times

"Blow" on V3's P3 (5.7)
 My hands were cold. The tips on my fingers were turning white, just as they always do when the late autumn shade hits at the end of the day and the rock swings from motherly warm to freezing beast. I was only a little nervous and very excited. Unsure is probably the best way to describe it. My heart was racing and my head was calm. A girl, the second in her party, had just fallen at the crux and she swung out into space and dangled there, at least five feet from the jugs she had just ripped off from, and waited for someone above her to teach her how to prussic the rest of the way up. I was alive with energy.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

In the Shadow of Giants

The North Side of Looking Glass
It was a cliff I had only seen in vague pictures. Random snapshots showed immaculate, laser-cut granite. Daring aid lines, hard free climbs, the North Side of Looking Glass has both. This six hundred foot, overhanging shield of rock has been toying with me for the last few years. It stands as an objective, a true test of abilities. It was a trip I had always wanted to plan but have never made happen. It still hasn't. However, now I have seen it with my own eyes. The pictures do no justice. I am ensnared.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Twelve Days in the Northeast

Hi folks,

The most recent trip report is posted here on I'm no poet, but I took a shot at writing a poem anyway. Because of the way the text wraps around the photos, it doesn't quite look as I submitted it, but that's OK. I really have no clue if it's any good or not. Here is the beginning to give you an idea:

Upon the passing of Hurricane Earl;
he flew in just before
we drove up to Acadia,
to climb the pink granite.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Confidence is Key

I had grand plans for that day, more accurately, delusions of grandeur. “Fearless Leader” and I headed off to Foster Falls, Chattanooga's sport climbing hub, but I had more than just a few quick draws in my pack. Influenced by John Sherman's article “Its Big, Its Bad, Its Retro-Trad”, I had lugged my entire rack with me. I was going to show sport climbing who was boss, or something like that. I envisioned crowds of awestruck onlookers gawking at my bold prowess. Skipping bolts and sometimes facings serious runouts, I would cruise up the area classics. I had one particular route in mind. Rumor has it that Satisfaction, one of Foster Falls' best routes, used to go safely on natural gear before it got the sport treatment. I had big dreams alright.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Consecutive Days and I'm Ready to Go?

It was only a week or so before when I awoke after my first day of climbing after contracting Lyme Disease that getting out of bed was the crux of the day. I rolled my feet to the floor, stood up, and immediately felt as if a truck had hit me head on. My swim session later that day was the slowest I'd had in a couple of weeks, and I wanted to eat the house out of food. I didn't, of course, but if that's how I was going to feel after one day of climbing easy stuff at Rumney then I openly wondered how my trip in September with "Jello" was going to turn out when we would hopefully be climbing every single day for two straight weeks. One day clipping bolts at Rumney clearly wasn't going to do the trick; I needed multiple days in a row of plugging gear, and "Lost", so nicknamed because we got lost trying to find our tent after heading back to the car to fetch the ill-forgotten beer in the backseat, provided me with an opportunity to climb for three days at the old haunt in the 'Gunks. We had been somewhat trying to climb together for a couple of years without luck, so I took the opportunity when it finally emerged and off we went in search of my long-lost endurance.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Guidebook: Gunks - Baby (5.6), Blistered Toe (5.7), Filipina-Boldville Link-up (5.7), Shit Creek (5.7), Drunkard's Delight (5.8-),

Baby P1
Baby (5.6) - Two pitches - Trad - Mixed anchors

Approach: Take the trail up left immediately before the rescue box. Stay left at the split. Baby is the crack that comes out of the broken rock at the bottom and has a pod about 35 feet up.

Pitch One (5.6) - 80 feet - Bolted anchor: Climb the broken rock up to the pod. Clear the pod (crux - a #4 camalot works really well here if you're short), and follow the crack up right to the bolted anchor on the ledge below a left-facing corner system.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review- Stone Summit Climbing Gym

The Stone Summit
Stone Summit is the talk of the town. Ok, maybe not the entire town, but you get the picture. Every climber I speak with, even if I haven't seen them for months, only wants to talk about one thing, Atlanta's new uber gym, the largest in America. At first I was dismissive. Despite evidence to the contrary, I prefer not to view myself as a gym climber, and I certainly don't want others to think I am some sort of plastic junkie. My default response to the topic was always, "If I am going to drive over an hour to climb, I am going to actually climb, and there is no way I am going to drive and then pay to climb." The elitism was thick as molasses. However, one can only be so resolved in their quest to seem above the plastic pulling masses, and my disdain became slowly replaced by curiosity.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guidebook: Rumney - Rise & Shine (5.7), Bolt Line (5.8), Dung Beetle (5.8), Easy Terms (5.8), Hippo's Parade (5.8+), Lies & Propaganda (5.9), Easily Aroused (5.9+), Egg McMeadows (5.10a)


Meadows / Parking Lot Wall

Approach: From the main parking lot, if heading to the Meadows first, walk to the far end of the lot (past the kiosk if walking from the toilets and / or fee station), and head straight up the path. The path will come out at the left side of the Meadows. For the Parking Lot Wall, head up the path directly behind the kiosk. A path connects both walls at the top. The approach is less than a couple of minutes each way.

Routes below are listed from left to right, first by climbing area and then by route. All routes noted are bolted with bolted anchors at the top and require only a 60m rope to go up and down. Please do not top-rope through the anchors. Lowering through them when finished is acceptable. The number of bolts listed does not include the anchor.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Body Fights Back

In summary, I got sick bad a few weeks ago on my final day in Acadia. It was Lyme disease, and I fought what I thought was a feverish flu for five days until I finally went to the emergency room in search of help. The comeback has been slow but noticeably progressive. I started with slow 30-minute swims every other day and, over the course of a couple of weeks, have built up to medium-paced 60-minute swims every day now. I've only tried cycling once, and that was a near disaster (I almost passed out when I finished due to the dizziness). I'm going to wait until next week to bike again. Hopefully things go better then. Yesterday, however, was my first day climbing since getting sick.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Warming Up Is Hard To Do

It was a trip that had been bouncing around my head since I got home from the Gunks. According the the guidebook, the North Face of Whiteside is the premier summer crag in all of North Carolina. The 5000 foot elevation, due north facing cliff sounded like a paradise compared to Athens. For the last month, the thermometer had flirted with the hundred degree mark every day without fail. Opening the door of my apartment was like opening the door of a hot oven. Even the short walk to the mailbox seemed risky at times. If I let my imagination roam, it was hard to believe that I would not catch on fire if I stayed outside too long. 

The view from the Catwalk

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - The Weird Season: Part 2

The Good

The Bubbles from Jordan Pond
(photo by Melanie Hall)
I waved good-bye to my four-year-old niece and my mom as they pulled out of the parking lot and headed to the airport and back to California. It had been a nice week with filled with lobster cookouts, skipping rocks, ice cream on the Village Green, gossip, and the laughter that comes after old ghosts are drawn out of closets long left open by families who know such things don't matter. An "accident" across the bay that left one lobsterman dead left the town abuzz about motives and the quiet "war" going on over there, while the tourists and locals alike still marvelled that such a small town as Bar Harbor could have as great of a fireworks display as what had been seen on the Fourth of July. I had drinks with "BEC" and "Wonderwoman" the night before they left town, and when we parted, after taking a gentle stroll down a blustery, chilly, dark, and peaceful Shore Path (my favorite place in the whole world), I looked forward to the climbing weekend ahead of me.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Weird Season: Part I

CCK (5.8)
If you're a regular reader then you'll remember my "retirement" post from a few weeks ago. It's silly to call it a retirement because I never was making a living as a climber, but that trip to Red Rocks did change things for me as a climber. It killed all ambition I had to challenge myself on routes, and it turned my attention to more serious matters such as writing and taking whatever next steps I had to take in life. Because of that decision, I was suddenly confident in the choices I had made, and the direction I was going in seemed obvious for the first time in many years. But it didn't come without worries, the first and foremost was finding and / or keeping climbing partners who continued to push themselves beyond their limits. I still wanted to climb, but who would want to climb with someone who wasn't in the game seriously?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lack of Posts

Hi Folks,

Just wanted to send an update on things here at the blog. There haven't been many posts lately and there are few reasons for that: 1) I had family obligations for a fair bit in June; 2) I've also been working on some larger projects and; 3) lately I've been sicker than a dog that's eaten chocolate ice cream, and it may take a  real long while to get 100% healthy again.

However, I do have a couple of posts that I need to write up. I may just do one post and combine them, but I'm not sure yet. If separated, one post will be a 'Gunks post and the other about Acadia, which started off great and, if I didn't wisen up five days later and get myself to the emergency room, could have ended much worse than it currently has. At the moment, however, my illness (or better yet the combination of the illness and the medication) is making me rather loopy in the head.

Still, there are posts to come, I promise. Just have patience.



Saturday, June 05, 2010

High E at Night

"Five hours later, when we had quit in the afternoon's heat, and after we swam in the chilly pool at Split Rock, we slept in the shade, read in the sun, gazed upon the shivering women who, upon exiting the cold water, were wet and glistening in the sun, and, after we had eaten at the campsite, we headed to do Arrow (5.8) as our warm up to a 5.6 classic just a few minutes down the path."

The rest of this post is located at

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The End Game: Epinephrine

"Jello" on the start of P2
“Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word. The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword!” – Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (written in prison).

Guidebook: Red Rocks Vegas - The Gobbler (5.10a), Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a), Frogland (5.8), Epinephrine (5.9 IV)

Eldorado Canyon

Black Velvet Canyon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Guidebook: Shelf Road - Cactus Cliffs: Crynoid Corner (5.7), Banana Split (5.10a), Slicer (10b), Black Man's Burden (5.10b), The Killer Toupee (5.10b), Gabby (5.10c), Glass Babies (5.10c), The Alignment (5.10c), 3/4 Ton (5.10c), Axis of Evil (5.10c)

Shelf Road

Cactus Cliffs

Approach: As of late April 2010, the road to the parking area at the base of Catcus Cliffs is closed to public traffic. Climbers must park at The Bank day use area.

From The Bank parking area, walk down the road that is to the right when entering the lot. Take the first trail on the right and head down to the wash staying to the left where the trail T's. Then cross the wash and head back up hill, staying right where the sign points toward the Cactus Cliff area. Where the path meets the closed road, head left uphill a couple of hundred yards.

From the BLM sign, head along the path a few feet and head up a set of stairs on the left. Where the path continues to the right, find a path heading off to the left. This path comes out a bit right before the pock-marked right-facing corner that is Crynoid Corner (5.7).

All routes described below should be short enough for a 60m rope (we used a 70m but had plenty of extra rope), and they all have bolted anchors, too.

Guidebook: Gunks - Easy Keyhole (5.2), Bunny (5.6)

Easy Keyhole (5.2) - Two Pitches - Trad - Tree Anchors

Approach: One of the first climbs in the Trapps, walk down the carriage road until you get to the first obvious face with climbing on it (obviously on the left-hand side). Walk up the first path (has stone steps) after this face (around the corner from the arrete) to a thin crack on the left and an off-width on the right. Both are within 10 feet of the carriage road. Not a good route for beginning trad leaders.

Pitch One (5.2) - 60 feet - Tree Anchor: Stem the block that forms the offwidth on the right and jam the crack on the left (crux). Climb straight up this section to the roof. Climb up to the roof and exit left, belaying at a tree.

Pitch Two (5.1) - 60 feet - Tree Anchor: Walk right of the tree to the "keyhole." Climb up on the left-hand side, then trend left to the large ledges above. Belay from any of the solid trees.

Descent: Walk off left along the easy path that fades right. You will end up about 50 feet uphill from the start of the climb.

Bunny (5.6) - One Pitch - Trad - Tree Anchor

Approach: Walk down the carriage road to the Uberfall area. About twenty feet left of where the obvious roof starts, find the crack in a shallow, right-facing corner that starts a couple of steps up from the road that.

Bunny (5.6) - 130 feet - Tree Anchor: Climb the corner straight up to the tree. Climbing the roof that is midway up the route directly results in a 5.6. Stepping left and going around it makes this easier (5.4). A great route for beginning trad leaders. Belay at the tree that has slings for rappel.

Descent: Rap off the slings on the tree with two 60m ropes. Or, walk off right. The walk-off to the right has an easier-than-it-looks down-climb that is about 150 feet to the right of the climb.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Guidebook: Eldorado Canyon - Washington Irving (5.6), Chianti (5.8+), The Unsaid (5.9), Next to Nearly (5.9)

Eldorado Canyon, Eldorado Springs, CO

The West Ridge

Approach: From the main parking lot just inside the gate, walk across the bridge and head left, staying low to the creek when other trails head up. Continue along until you come to a sign that says the trail ends. Walk past the sign and up a slick but well-worn ramp on rock near the creek. Make a very careful step over the top and downclimb, finding a worn path up right of the tiny beach area on the other side of the ramp. Head up right and find another, real trail, which is the West Ridge Trail.

Follow this trail up several hundred feet until you see a bunch of dihedrals that start on a ledge about 25 feet above the trail. On the right side of this ledge there is a fairly large boulder resting against the bottom of a slab. There is a tree growing next to the boulder.

All routes in this post can be safely descended by either lowering or rapping with a single 70m rope. A 60m rope will work if you are confident down-climbing easy-but-exposed slab for probably ten feet or so.

Guidebook: 'Gunks - Trapps: Moonlight (5.6), Snooky's Return (5.8)



Guidebook: Cathedral Ledge - North End: Child's Play (5.6), Kiddy Crack (5.8), Bird's Nest (5.9-), They Died Laughing (5.9)

Cathedral Ledge

The North End

Approach: Drive down the Cathedral Ledge road and park in one of the lots just before the gate that marks the start of the road that goes to the top. Walk across the street from the small parking lots to the path marked by the sign. The crag is about 2min up and the right-hand crack at the top of the path is Kiddie Crack (5.7).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Preparing for Epinephrine: days one and two

When a turkey decided to fly into my windshield a few days before I headed west for three weeks, it never crossed my mind that Dreams of Wild Turkeys (5.10a) might not be the best route to start my Red Rocks trip. Our goal was Epinephrine (5.9 IV) - that towering classic in Black Velvet Canyon with the intimidating chimneys and the descent that has forced many into an unplanned bivy - so we chose the same canyon our first two days just so we could get a feel for the area and scope out the approach and descent. Wild Turkeys, a long, 10-pitch classic itself, seemed a good start two days before Epi. Frogland (5.8), an easier route that shared part Epi's descent, would make for a good sandwich rest day. What we didn't know, however, was how much Wild Turkeys would affect us for days to come.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Living and Climbing in Maine

I've been away for too long, and yet it sometimes feels as if it isn't long enough. My roots are firmly planted in Downeast Maine, but I haven't watered them for years. When I decided to go halfway home - to the Midcoast instead of Downeast - I walked away from the young, dynamic, and fast atmosphere in Boston to the slow, easy-going pace that settles one's soul into a peaceful lullabye of Sunday drives and careless lives.

Guidebook: Camden, ME - Fireman's Ladder (5.5), Natural History (5.7-), Out of Gas (5.8), Every Second Counts (5.9), Arrete (5.10b), Prospero (5.10c), Dream Weaver (5.10c), Ariel (5.11d)

Camden, Maine - The Rampart

Approach: Find the carriage road trailhead (small, brown side with a brown gate blocking the road) at about 184 / 185 Mountain Street (Rt 52) in Camden, ME, and park along the side of the road without blocking the gate. Hike in along the blue blazed carriage trail for about 15-20 min, crossing two wooden bridges. Then cross a log bridge (you'll have to wind back to the right to find the trail again). Find the cairn about 100 yards uphill from the log bridge and take that trail to the left. The climber's trail will bring you out at a bunch of boulders near Arrete (5.10b) on the right and Dreamweaver (5.10c) on the obvious prow / arrete to the left. 

Guidebook: Camden, ME - Charlotte's Crack (5.7), The Web (5.6), Harmonic Convergence (5.7+), White Streak (5.9 R),

Camden, Maine - Barrett's Cove

Approach: From the parking lot off Mountain Street (Rt 52) in Camden, which is a large, paved pullout across the street from Lake Megunticook, take the path on the right side of the parking lot (if facing the cliff). Follow the path up to the left to get near the base. For climbs on the left side, continue left. For climbs in the middle, head up right on a climber's trail that goes straight up and left, and follow that to a ledge. For climbs on the right, take the same path that goes to the center, but head right instead of going left to the ledge.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Good Partners

A snippet:

"Wow," I said. "That looks tough."

"Yeah, and I don't see where there's gear at all going over the roof or around it."

"There's gotta be something," I said. "It's not 5.8X."

"I don't even see the bolt that protects the crux!"